A woman in Massachusetts made a gruesome discovery Thursday when she found a decapitated body believed to be a 16-year-old boy who vanished more than a week ago.
The father of missing teenager Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino rushed to join investigators at the scene. “They haven’t told me anything yet. I hope that’s not my son,” Carlos Viloria said.
The woman was walking her dog near the banks of the Merrimack River in Lawrence when she discovered the body; she called police at 2:42 p.m., the Boston Herald reported. Police said they also recovered the head, without elaborating.
Lawrence Police Chief James X. Fitzpatrick said investigators were working “to identify the body and cause of death” and “believe this is an isolated incident, and that the community is safe.”
At the scene, Viloria noticed a black sweatshirt with white letters sewn on the back. “It looks like his,” the father said. “I don’t know.” Viloria took the sweatshirt and showed it to relatives before driving away in a black SUV, the Herald added.
“If it’s not the young man, it’s certainly tragic. It’s a tragic loss of life in our city in a way that is clearly beyond the pale,” Lawrence City Councilor Marc Laplante said.
Another local official, Estela Reyes, said she was “emotionally devastated.” She added, “I’m hoping it’s not that boy. I’m just hoping they can find him alive. …You have to put yourself in that mother’s shoes. It’s a tough situation.”
Investigators will release the victim’s name after an autopsy Friday, said Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for the Essex County district attorney, the Boston Globe reported.
Students who knew Viloria-Paulino offered a somber reflection.
“I feel bad, because he was really friendly,” classmate Dalfry Lopez told the Globe. “Who would do something like that to him?”
“He was a friendly kid,” Lopez added.